“Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church.” ~ 3 John 5-6a
Explanation of the Text: John opens the heart of his message to Gaius once again with the word ‘beloved’ indicating the closeness of relationship that they have. In fact, Francis Schaeffer would say this is the oneness (established in love) that should be the mark of a Christian (See Francis Schaeffer’s book, The Mark of a Christian). The same love evidenced by John for Gaius is the same love that Gaius shows to the strangers.
In this particular era, hospitality was crucial. While there few places existed for travelers to stay, the reputation of such places could often be questionable in terms of morality. As such, the Jews would rely on the hospitality of fellow Jews, sometimes even arriving with a letter of recommendation to share with their fellows Jews; this practice would be put into place for Christians as well (1). In the case here, it appears that some unknown believers, or strangers, came to Gaius searching for a place to stay and Gaius’ response was one Christian hospitality towards them.
John makes it clear that the testimony for such actions by Gaius have made it back to him. Just as Gaius maintained a testimony of walking in that truth, that testimony is further susbtantiated by his love through hospitality.
Examination & Application of the Text: I am often amazed at how much the Lord has matured me since being married. While there are many daily battles to still fight, the growth in maturity can be nothing less than a testimony to God’s provision, love, and work in my life. During my courtship and engagement with my wife, the Lord used my wife’s parents to teach me a number of lessons that have shaped my perspective and Christian worldview substantially. One of those was in the area of hospitality.
My mother and stepfather taught me much about giving to others. God used them to set a foundation. Through my now parents-in-law, the Lord built further off that foundation by showing how hospitality is the giving of one’s self. I watched them serve others, sometimes at great cost to themselves. Irregardless of that cost (whether large or small) their concern for others established for me an example of showing Christ through loving others in this way.
Christ is shown to others by the giving of ourselves . . . the world sees Him through our willful, hospitable service. Francis Shaeffer writes that a lack of love may not be proof that one is not a Christian, however it gives the world the right to conclude we are not Christian (2). Not only does our love for non-believers give evidence of who God is, but our love for fellow Christians should also stand out as the greatest apologetics argument available to us.For genuine hospitality, genuine love must accompany it and to demonstrate genuine love, one must be genuinely hopsitable. The two go together in the Christian walk.
(1) Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 3 John 5-6.
(2) Francis Shaeffer, The Mark of A Christian (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1970), Location 110.